Kiwi accused of biting officer arrested at airport

Last updated 05:00 27/08/2014
Liberty Times
Stephen Saunders, 57, grew a beard and used an Australian passport in an effort to flee Taiwan after allegedly biting a policeman.

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A New Zealander has been detained in Taiwan, accused of biting a policeman and then trying to flee the country in disguise using an Australian passport.

Taiwan immigration officials say Stephen Mark Saunders, 57, was arrested at the airport as he attempted to fly to Hong Kong.

He had disguised himself by growing his hair and beard long, and wearing dark glasses and a fedora. But he had kept the same name and date of birth, which alerted immigration officials.

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knowThe saga began when Saunders, a New Zealand passport holder, accidentally broke a glass door at a mobile phone shop in the capital, Taipei, according to Taiwanese media.

The Liberty Times reported that, because of language barriers, the conversation became heated and Saunders fled on foot, with the shopkeeper on his heels. A policeman joined the chase, and Saunders is alleged to have bitten the officer as he tried to restrain him.

However, Saunders is said to be claiming that the police officer assaulted him. According to papers filed in the Taipei District Court, Saunders was charged with obstructing official business. At an initial hearing on May 20, he was told not to leave the country while he awaited trial.

A travel restriction was placed on his New Zealand passport. Court documents show that an appeal on August 5 failed to have the restriction lifted.

Saunders then began an express application for an Australian passport ahead of his August 22 trial date.

A Taiwan National Immigration Agency representative told The Dominion Post that Saunders went to Taoyuan airport on August 21 to fly to Hong Kong.

Immigration officials said that, in an attempt to conceal his identity, he had grown his hair and beard long and wore dark glasses and a fedora. However, the name and date of birth in his Australian passport were the same as in the New Zealand one.

Immigration staff at the airport compared his photos and samples of handwriting from his arrival form to confirm his identity, the representative said.

He was handed over to Taipei District Court officials and remains in Taiwan awaiting trial.

A Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson said it had no information on a New Zealander, other than what had been reported by Taiwanese media.

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